The Broadband Imperative

Following on from the videos I posted in my previous posts, here's a useful report for those involved in planning for and thinking about the roll-out of fibre to NZ schools through the UFBiS programme, and what the impact of that might be.

The Broadband Imperative is published by the State Educational Technology Director's Association (SETDA) in the US. It provides an up-to-date assessment of access to broadband by students and teachers (in and out of schools); current trends driving the need for more broadband in teaching, learning and school operations; and specific recommendations for the broadband capacity needed to ensure all students have access to the tools and resources they need to be college and career ready by 2014-15 and beyond.

The issues and concerns outlined in the report are very familiar to those of us working in this space in NZ – access speed, volume charging, remote area access etc. 

What I really like about the approach this report suggests is the emphasis on building…

"…a comprehensive infrastructure for learning that inclused broadband access to the internet and adequate wireless connectivity both in and out of school"

We could well do with this sort of vision driving our development in NZ. Instead, the current focus is limited to connecting to schools (a worthwile and necessary step), but without a clearly articulated vision and understanding of where this will lead and how it might fundamentally change our notion of school and learning for the future. 

The notion of ubiquity must underpin our thinking here – as I've repeated in numerous blog posts in the past and have spoken about frequently. Learning in the future will not be constrained by the four walls of the classroom, nor the fences of the school boundary, but must be enabled to occurr from anywhere, at any time and through any device. The SETDA report highlights this by recommending that out-of-school access must be a priority for learning, stating …

"To accomplish truly ubiquitous learning, students must be able to connect outside the school walls"

Sometimes I fear that our NZ approach is so tightly focused on getting the fibre to schools (which is the goal of the programme as indicated by its very name – Ultra Fast Broadband in Schools – UFBiS!) that we aren't really being driven by a larger scale vision of what may be achieved here. 

in assessing what the trends driving broadband are it is interesting to me that the SETDA report highlights a range of things like digital resources, streaming video, digital textbooks, downloading content etc., which are all 'consumption' activities, with little discussion of the more collaborative or contributory activity that may be engaged in. I completely understand that the use of the fibre as a deliver channel will inevitably be a driver initially, but like social media use, once in place, I'd suggest the participatory dimension will be a significant driver. (Thus the need to ensure the architecture is built around full symetry.)

The table above (from recommendations section on page 25 of the SETDA report) shows the targets for acces speed in the US context – which is interesting to compare with the NZ targets where the UFB policy is to offer services of at least 100/50Mbps (100 Megabits per second Downstream, 50 Megabits per second Upstream), with 30/10 plans being offered at the entry level.

Some good reading here – would be useful to see a similar report done for the NZ context. 

One thought on “The Broadband Imperative

  1. Bandwidth per student will be dependant on concurrent usage, but this is a distraction from the main issue of how will the connection be used.  This article raises a good point about the "participatory dimension" being a significant driver.

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